Day 1350- Skeptics vs. Cynics

In the last couple of days, the New York Times has published a hit piece that featured a medium that is a client of mine, Thomas John. I do some work for Thomas handling some of his customer service and social media. John Oliver produced a hit piece on psychics and mediums, he particularly went after mediums. What both of these pieces have in common is they were created by people who believe that psychics are all frauds and mediumship is impossible. When you start out with the premise that something is impossible, what are you likely to find?

I’d like to address these pieces in particular and skepticism in general. Skepticism is a good thing. That’s why the phrase “healthy skepticism” exists. If someone offers you a brand new Mercedes Benz for $5.00 a month, you’d do well to be skeptical. The wilder the claim, the more skepticism that’s warranted. Yes, if someone says they can speak to your dead grandmother, in today’s materialistic world, you probably are going to be skeptical. When it comes to psychics, like most other professions, there are good ones, bad ones, and there are out and out frauds. I personally would never see a medium without a referral. I ask for referrals for handymen, why not for mediums? But, there is a big difference between skepticism and cynicism. A cynic will not be convinced no matter the evidence. I had a guy tell me that there was “no evidence” for the afterlife. When I referred him to the work of Dr. Gary Schwartz, Dr. Julia Assante, Dr. Julie Beischel, et al, he took one glance and said he wouldn’t even consider anything that dealt with mediumship. So, you ask for evidence and when presented with it, you say “Well not that evidence.” There was a guy I heard in an interview say that there was no reason to believe that NDEs exist. He wrote a whole chapter in his book about the fact they aren’t real. When the interviewer asked him if he had done any research on NDEs, he said he had done none. In his preamble to his piece, John Oliver said something to the effect of “We could have looked at both sides of mediumship, but there is only one side.”  He went on to say the only reason to do a piece on mediumship is to make fun of it. The New York Times article featured information obtained by people who believe all mediums are fakes. It was offered without rebuttal or any counterpoints, even by the people who were featured. Is this what passes for journalism?

Before I go too much further, I want to say I am a huge fan of John Oliver. I do not miss his show. He provides comedic and insightful takes on a variety of subjects. I am biased. I work with many mediums on a regular basis. I had two medium readings just last week. I know people studying and teaching mediumship. I’ve had amateur mediums tell me amazing things they could not possibly have looked up, with no motivation to lie. I know that mediumship is real based on my experiences. But, let’s examine this objectively.

In the John Oliver piece, he selectively chose the worst possible moments from some celebrity mediums like John Edwards and Sylvia Browne. The moment with Sylvia Browne is when she mistakenly told a mother that her daughter, who had been kidnapped, was dead. The daughter was alive and watching the program. He showed John Edwards making some very vague statements in a gallery reading. I’m not a fan of either medium. I don’t know much about them. But, I do know if these moments were truly representative of their work neither would have risen to the positions they were in. All mediums have bad moments. None are perfect. I’ve witnessed many gallery readings. I saw one of the most sought after and best mediums completely bomb in one. He had an awful night. But, I’ve seen some amazing things in gallery readings as well. I’ve seen Thomas John live. Some of his readings are phenomenal. Some are pretty routine. I worked the door for him the night he was in Cincinnati. I saw him arrive. I know he was alone. I set up the sound system so I know no one was feeding him information in his ear. I had invited people to attend. He didn’t know any of them were coming. Their names weren’t on any list. And he read one of them. Through personal experience, I know no one was feeding him information.

In the NYT article, the claim is that Thomas finds information on social media before an event. This is known as “hot reading”. Today, we can find a lot about a person via just a telephone number, if they have ever typed it into Facebook, or a name, if it’s unusual enough. I’m not going to go into the details of that particular reading. But, be aware of this. In a gallery reading when there are 50-100-200 people in a room, no medium I’ve seen work goes up to a specific person with a message. Typically, they will get a general impression at first. They might get a section of the room. The information typically goes from general to more specific as the medium hones in on the energy of the sitter and the loved one in spirit. In a room, you’ll have a few types of people. Some want to grab every reading, trying to make the details fit their loved one.  Some are reluctant to take anything.  This frustrates mediums to no end as they try to shush the hijackers and get the reluctant ones to take their information. And, for some reason, often people with similar circumstances will show up at an event. As the details are coming in, they will often fit two or three people in the room. This is known as piggybacking. There may be multiple people in the room who know an Andy who died of cancer and had a connection to Michigan for example. In these cases, the medium must keep getting more specific information to differentiate.

In the John Oliver piece, they also showed a local “psychic” somewhere who was set up by a local news team. They looked her up, met her at a Denny’s and showed her a picture of a boy she claimed was dead and in Heaven. The boy was sitting in the booth behind her. This is entertaining. And if you pick a “psychic” out of the Yellow Pages, I’d say there are better than 50:50 odds this is exactly what you’d get. But, it tells me nothing about whether true psychics exist. I wish they’d try this with some of the people I know.  I know mediums who work with the police and families to find loved ones. If they were all fakes, the police would stop calling my friend Carolyn Clapper. They call her because she gets results.

Thomas John was accused of hot reading in the article. I can not prove this isn’t true. But, I can say this. Back in May of 2018, six months before I started doing any work for Thomas, I asked Thomas if he would do an experiment for me. Thomas had done several readings for parents of a group I belong to. He was accused by someone of doing hot readings. This person stalked me, emailing me day after day telling me they could prove Thomas was cheating. A friend of mine works for Thomas. I contacted him through her and asked if he would submit to this. I would set up a reading for someone unknown to him or anyone else. It would be via Zoom. He would not be given a telephone number or a name. Tywana and I chose a sitter not associated with our organization. I didn’t even know her story because I had only met her once. I know there was no possibility of a hot reading in this case. The video was to be posted on YouTube regardless of the results. I have to add that I see Thomas’ schedule and I know that if he’s doing hot readings on all of these clients in all of these events, he, first of all, has to have a time machine because there are only twenty-four hours in a mortal’s day. And, he must have the best memory of any person on the planet.

Another technique cheaters use is cold readings. This just takes good observation skills and a mind that can deal with probabilities. For example, in a gallery reading when you say “I have someone’s grandmother here.” If there are 50 people in a room, you’re going to have at least 25 grandmothers in spirit. “You were very close with your grandmother. She’s so proud of you.” None of these should be counted in a reading as a “hit”. They apply to too many people.  I was doing a reading last week and the medium said “I have someone here connected with your mother. I think it’s your grandmother.” I’m a 57-year dude with a ton of gray in my beard and she was looking at my face. I do have some friends who have living maternal grandmothers. But, this is pretty vague. Then, she said, “She’s like an extension of your mother.” More specific. Not everyone was close to their grandmother. But, my grandmother did live with us for about 15 years. We do have a unique relationship.  This is more specific. Maybe, this would be evidence she has my grandmother. She went on to say she has a son with her.  OK. Again, I’m pretty old. The medium didn’t know my name or that my grandmother even had a son. She said my grandmother had a lot of kids. She did- 10. Now, we’re getting somewhere. Then she said there’s a lot of sadness around his death. We’re back to the general. Of course. Then, she said, “I see a tragedy.”  Her eyes grew wide and she said: “Was he murdered?!”  This is how mediumship often works. Now, she could have cold read me easily to guess I have a grandmother in spirit. More often than not, we feel close to our grandmothers. I don’t know how many people would say they were like a mother to them. I wouldn’t say this of my paternal grandmother. All of this could be dismissed as cold reading. The fact that my uncle was murdered, the police didn’t thoroughly investigate in my opinion, these are not things you’d guess.

If you’re going to test mediums and/or psychics, you need to test them properly. And, Dr. Gary Schwartz, Mark Ireland, and Dr. Julie Beischel, just to name three, have. They have set up protocols to rule out hot readings. The doctors have published scientific papers documenting their results. Drs. Schwartz and Beischel have set up protocols to eliminate cold reading.  Mark chooses experienced sitters who know how to keep their cards close to their vest and uses a strict scoring protocol to eliminate vague guesses from being counted as hits. The medium I sat with last week scored over 90% even after I went back over her sheet and brought her score down after further reflection. Dr. Beischel is with the Windbridge Research Center. I encourage you to check out her work if you’re a skeptic.  Read. Dr. Schwartz’ book “The Afterlife Experiments” I work with Dr. Schwartz, in a way. I get to talk to him occasionally. He goes to ridiculous lengths to eliminate any possibilities of alternate explanations other than actual communication with the departed. And, he goes to insane lengths to avoid any possibility of cheating, even inadvertently.

In the case of Thomas John, he has offered an explanation, other than hot reading, for what the people who set him up experienced. If you’ve read the NYT article and buy into it, you owe it to yourself to watch his video. He has posted this video to his Facebook page.  After the article came out, another medium friend of mine wrote to me and offered what she thinks could be an explanation beyond the explanation Thomas gave. Someone once contacted me about her because they thought their reading with her was “too good”.  They assumed she must have looked her up on social media. That’s the thing about mediumship. Even when you have one of these amazing readings, you wonder “How did they do that?”. Some people will reach for any explanation other than the one staring them in the face- they actually are communicating with your loved ones. if you want to be a pseudo-scientist, don’t forget Occam’s Razor. The simplest explanation that requires the least amount of assumptions is the one a responsible scientist will go with.

I have friends who are mediums. Many of them go out of their way to know as little as possible about their sitters/clients. They don’t want there to be any concern that they are doing hot readings. And, they don’t want to bring anything into a reading they could have possibly learned another way. Of course, there are fakes and bad psychics, John Oliver and NYT, but I can tell you from my personal experience and based on the research of people mentioned above, there are very real psychics and mediums. To the skeptics, I say, “Examine the evidence yourself.” To the cynics, I say “You do you and have a nice day.”

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